During Robert Barrett’s tenure as the Senior Vice President of Marketing for the Los Convention & Visitors Bureau he formed cooperative partnerships with corporations such as American Express, United Airlines, Universal Studios and national hotel chains to market the Los Angeles region. His national and international marketing campaigns for the opening of the Getty Center, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Van Gogh and Warhol exhibitions drove millions of dollars of visitor spending.
Robert is often credited as being the father of the national cultural tourism movement. Prior to becoming a tourism marketing expert he was a contemporary art museum director and prior to that an artist. His background and knowledge of the arts combined with international art tour guide leadership experience resulted in Robert being recruited to develop the first cultural tourism department in the nation at the Los Angeles Convention Bureau. He wrote and received the first National Endowment for the Arts grant for a cultural tourism marketing campaign. In 1998 Robert and three other cultural tourism pioneers founded the national Cultural & Heritage Tourism Alliance. Robert served as the keynote speaker at many conventions throughout the U.S. at which he encouraged the tourism industry, government agencies and cultural attractions to work together on the packaging and promotion of American Culture as a tourism product.
In 1996 when Robert was charged with addressing the world-wide perception that LA was devoid of culture few could imagine that one man with a comparatively tiny marketing budget would be able move the needle. Now, over a decade and a half later, Los Angeles is globally perceived as one of the great cultural capitals of the 21st century.
After 9/11, in an attempt to jump-start the moribund American tourism industry, Robert negotiated a deal with Kellogg’s that resulted in major American destinations being promoted on the backs of 40 million adult cereal boxes. Airlines, hotels and attractions joined the campaign and contributed hundreds of free trips that were given away over a year’s period to consumers at grocery store promotions and through online register-to-win competitions.
Robert has been a member of the California Travel Industry Association board and in 2003 / 2004 served as the board’s chair. He also chaired the California Travel & Tourism Commission’s Cultural Tourism Committee for a number of years and during his tenure spearheaded campaigns on African-American and Asian American culture in California that appeared in many national publications.
In 2003, prior to moving to Rancho Mirage where Robert and his artist wife of 47 years have retired, he created a marketing partnership with seven of America’s largest cities. The resulting company, Americas Greatest Cities, is composed of the convention bureaus of New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Americas Greatest Cities is dedicated to enticing consumers to book week-end getaways in the partner cities.
Robert and his wife Barbara met in art school in the mid sixties. After a two-year stint in the Peace Corps in Liberia, West Africa and a brief and successful period in the San Francisco Bay Area as artists they started careers in arts administration and education that consumed their attention and waking hours for 49 years. Now residing in Rancho Mirage in the Palm Springs Valley they are back in the studio making art. However Robert remains in demand as a tourism consultant. He recently wrote tourism marketing plans for the Cities of Houston, Texas and Rancho Mirage, California. Prior to retirement in 2016 he served Rancho Mirage as the City’s Director of Marketing and Public Relations for eight years.